In a Panamanian market, one survives by selling medicinal plants

“I will be 71 next Saturday,” Crecencia Salazar tells Efe while deftly arranging a bouquet of daisies at his stall in the Calidonia market in Panama City, where now, in the midst of the COVID pandemic- 19, what sells the most and saves your day are medicinal herbs.

Wearing her mask, sitting on a small stool and surrounded by a few containers with flowers, this old woman is one of the vendors of the market, located for decades in a street in Calidonia, the capital area that houses some of the popular neighborhoods with high incidence of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Salazar says that “since she was 7 years old” she went there: when she was a girl she used to do it with her grandmother and her mother to sell “sacks of cassava and all that was planted in the bush before”, because now “nothing is sown anymore “

Today Crecencia, who is a widow and who receives a “small pension”, lives with six relatives and only she goes out to work.

“I entrust myself to God to take care of me, my family and the entire country,” she affirms, and she also gives thanks that neither she nor her family have been reached by COVID-19, which has infected 28,030 people in Panama. and killed 547 in 108 days of pandemic.


The capital of Panama and its surrounding areas are the most affected by the disease and the authorities maintain, only in this part of the country of 4.2 million inhabitants, mobility restrictions by gender and two hours a day, according to the personal identity number .

However, safe-conducts are issued to workers in authorized productive activities.

This Thursday there are passers-by on the street where the market stalls are scattered, although the cars also make a brief stop for the vendors to come and take them directly to vegetables, legumes, flowers or herbs and botanical products.

Before the coronavirus “more results were seen in the flower business, but now it is seen more in the herb business due to the discomfort that exists in the country, throughout the world. With the medicines that the doctor and herbs send, balances, “says the saleswoman.

All kinds of clients, including police officers and firefighters, come in search of medicinal plants such as eucalyptus and rosemary, which serve to clear the constipated chest and take baths, Rufina Pérez, 59, explains to Efe, another from the market vendors.

“We have the safe-conduct, others I do not know. But for now, thank God, they have not bothered us” the authorities, explains Pérez, who has “about 20 years” selling herbs at his stall in the Calidonia market.

They are small spaces on the sidewalk, many of which pass from generation to generation: “the old ladies have already passed to a better life, now there are the daughters, like me, and the nieces too,” says Rufina, who clarifies that those who are working there They do it out of necessity and with “a little bit of fear” due to the pandemic.

Sales have fallen in the market, but Rufina says she is lucky because she has received help from the Government: “Thank God I have been touched, they have supported me. I am now the one who works because my son cannot.”

But Daniel Obispo, a 29-year-old accountant and father of a nine-month-old baby and a one-year-old girl, has not been so lucky: he has not received state aid or found a job since, shortly before the pandemic, he was fired from a public body.

“You have to know how to earn a living honestly,” Bishop told Efe in front of a small table where he sells chewing gum, coffee and other goodies.


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